Use these 6 creative ways to affirm volunteers. You’ll find a good, better, and best option for all six!
Good, Better, Best: 6 Creative Ways to Affirm Volunteers
1. Living Water
Thank your volunteers for bringing the Living Water to kids each week.
Good: Buy bottled water and use a ribbon to tie on a tag that says:
” Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life’ (John 4:13-14).
Thanks for bringing the Living Water to our kids!”
Better: Buy bottled water and replace the labels with your own label by printing the verse and message with your ministry’s logo on label paper.
Best: Check with a promotional company such as cscpromo.com or discountmugs.com, and print stainless water bottles with your ministry logo and message. This is a gift your volunteers will use for years to come.
2. Practical Tote
Give your volunteers a tote for the curriculum and handouts you give them.
Good: Buy plain tote bags from a craft or discount store, and give them to your volunteers with the next quarter’s materials.
Better: Iron your ministry logo or a theme verse for the year on the same type of tote bag. You can buy iron-on transfer paper at office supply and discount stores. Then attach a fine-tip permanent marker and a note inviting them to have the kids in the class sign the bag.
Best: Men may not be excited about carrying a traditional tote bag, so your best option is to buy or order cool slingback bags (shop.baudville.com) or daypacks. Include curriculum, highlighters, and cool pens in the bags to help volunteers prepare their lessons each week.
3. Coffee Drinkers Delight
Gift cards to coffee shops can get pretty expensive, they don’t build in much interaction between your volunteers, nor do volunteers leave with something they will keep and remember your ministry by. Instead, try these fresh ideas.
Good: Bring in a special coffee station for a morning or for an appreciation event. You can do this yourself by purchasing fresh coffee at a local coffee shop and providing syrups and other special drinks (such as teas and smoothies), or have it catered by a mobile coffee cart company.
Better: Offer the special coffee station, but preorder special custom coffee mugs your volunteers can keep (try discountmugs.com).
Best: You already know volunteers do what they do for the kids, so in addition to your coffee station, have kids write a special note or verse or draw special pictures and make them into travel tumblers for your volunteers (learn more at makit.com). These are inexpensive and your volunteers will treasure them.
4. Sweet Treat
Chocolate is always a hit, but think outside the wrapper for more fun ideas!
Good: Give each volunteer a candy bar with a custom label that reads something like, “You’re the secret sweet ingredient in our ministry,” or some other appreciation slogan.
Better: Order cookie bouquets (cookiebouquets.com or cookiesbydesign.com) and invite volunteers to each take home a cookie. Attach a personal note to each or display a large card where parents can write messages to their children’s teachers.
Best: Design a special invitation asking volunteers to a local ice cream parlor one evening—and the treat is on you. Plan ahead with the parlor to pay for volunteers who come during the set time, and spend the time talking to your volunteers away from the church.
5. The Gift of Time
For all of the hours, days, and weeks your volunteers give, why not give them a calendar to say, “Thank you for your time!”
Good: Give your volunteers a Christian calendar from a book or discount store.
Better: Buy checkbook-style calendars with clear plastic covers. Create a design you can slip into the covers that has your ministry’s logo and add a special message such as, “I thank God every day for the time you give to our kids.”
Best: Take digital pictures of kids in your ministry with volunteers and send in 12 to a calendar-making company such as shutterfly.com. To download a custom calendar template from childrensministry.com, click here. Include significant ministry events in your calendar for the next year—including when your fall program kicks off.
6. Words of Encouragement
You can encourage your volunteers with nothing but heartfelt words. These “gifts” may be the easiest on your budget and yet leave the deepest impression.
Good: Ask your pastor to write a short note of thanks and encouragement on simple note cards to your volunteers.
Better: Write a personal note pointing out things that you’ve noticed about each volunteer and how much he or she loves kids.
Best: Buy simple photo albums with pockets you can slip photos and cards into. Hand out index cards to parents and families and ask them to write personal notes to their children’s teachers and assistants. Slip the notes into the albums and include a photo of the volunteer in the front.
Best Yet: Another option is to set up a dedicated line where people can call in and record a message for the volunteer, then you download the messages onto iTunes and burn CDs of the messages. This service is available through lifeonrecord.com. Imagine a volunteer being able to hear little voices say, “Thank you for teaching me about Jesus!” for years to come. You could even design a CD label with a picture of the kids on it.
How you give the gift is often as appreciated as what you give. Here are simple ways to package gifts that’ll add pizazz to whatever it is you’re giving.
Adding colored paper to gifts makes them look more fun. Wrap things in tissue paper with a curly ribbon, or grab your paper shredder and run a few fun colors through it to create a cushion for your gifts.
Get creative with your packaging. Take-out containers (try MrTakeOutBags.com), vellum bags, flowerpots, popcorn containers, and metal or sand buckets are inexpensive ways to make things interesting. Decoupage quart-sized paint cans and your volunteers can use them later as pencil cans. Watch major discount stores for sales at the end of each season, and buy the bright plastic cups that are left over. These make great containers to package gifts in. Learn origami; better yet, buy a book for youth group members and ask them to help you fold boxes out of interesting papers.
Use your theme and think outside of the box. For example, if you have a Summit theme, take simple brown paper bags, dip the bottom of an old hiking boot in tempera paint, and use it to walk all over the bags to make prints!
Let kids color on white paper bags and use them to package your appreciation gifts.
Want more volunteer management ideas? Check out these articles!